ATHENS — Grading the Georgia Bulldogs on their performance in the G-Day Game on Saturday is difficult. Grading the 52,000-plus fans that came out to watch them is not.
Just ask Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who was blown away by the turnout despite rain and ridiculously cool temperatures.
“When we were walking in, I was a lot more worried about (attendance),” Smart said during his postgame news conference “I’m asking myself if I would have come out in that weather. I doubt it. To have the crowd that we had, I was very pleased. What was amazing to me was the Dawg Walk. Those folks are as loyal as they come because they’re out there in the rain and the weather and wanting to get a handshake. It just says a lot about our fan base, our state of football here, and the love for football in this state. I can’t thank the fans enough for braving some of those conditions and getting out there and doing it.”
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 20, 2019
It didn’t exactly go downhill from there, but the Bulldogs weren’t real sharp on either side of the ball at any point during Saturday’s end-of-spring, controlled scrimmage. Offense, defense and special teams all had their moments to shine, but also moments not to.
At the end of it all, it was a scrimmage. So when one side was succeeding, the other was failing, and they’re both part of the same team.
Above all else, Smart liked that it was competitive. The Red Team came from behind to win 22-17 and earn the coveted meal of steak and lobster, versus Beanie Weanies for the losers.
“Excited about the tight nature of the game and the back-and-forth battle,” Smart said. “I like it when both quarterbacks get to kind of compete and do 2-minute and the guys get to play. So it was real good from a competitive standpoint. I got to look in some guys’ eyes that they were out there competing and playing hard. That part was good. And no major injuries, which is also good.”
Following are some grades for the day’s work. Call it a mid-term because the Bulldogs will have another four months to perfect their material:
The offense you saw Saturday is nothing like the offense you’ll see this fall. The Bulldogs pretty much abandoned their running game from the outset in order to work on the passing game and to avoid injuries.
While they did avoid injuries, Georgia quarterbacks completed only 51.8 percent of their passes and averaged 5.9 yards per attempt with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But the Bulldogs also won’t be throwing it nearly three more times than they run it in the regular season. We’re just guessing that D’Andre Swift might get more than three carries per game.
Still, quarterback Jake Fromm was extremely hard on himself afterward. He went 14-of-29 for 116 yards with a long throw of 15 yards.
“My performance wasn’t great, or up to the standard I want to play at,” he said. “But it is what it is, and we had some great practices this spring.”
Stetson Bennett was a combined 12-of-23 passing for 210 yards and an interception playing for both teams. D’wan Mathis went 15-of-28 with a pick and was sacked 5 times for the Black.
Junior wideout Trey Blount helped his cause with a game-best 5 catches for 69 yards, while tight ends John FitzPatrick and Charlie Woerner also came up with five catches.
The stated objective this spring, this coming season and for Saturday’s G-Day Game was to create more havoc plays. They achieved that, but it’s unclear if what we witnessed will translate to the regular season.
In about 100 plays from scrimmage, the Bulldogs produced 7 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 10 pass break-ups and zero fumbles. Some of those numbers are inflated due to the hands-off policy for the quarterbacks.
The game opened with an Eric Stokes interception return for a touchdown. But the defense also allow passes of 52, 43 and 39 yards and one 27-yard run. That’d have Smart chewing hide for a regular game.
“There was not a lot of opportunity for havoc and there were probably some missed sacks out there too that could have been blown and called several times that would have created more havoc,” Smart said. “We don’t measure it based on the officials and their numbers. We (measure) when we watch the tape and say, ‘would that have been a sack; would that not have been a sack?’ But we continue to work on havoc and it’s going to be a big word for us all year.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: I
Overall it was a good day for Georgia’s specialists, but there were just too many different people doing too many things to feel strongly one way or another. Rodrigo Blankenship, undisputed as the Bulldogs’ primary place-kicker, actually took fewer kicks than anybody. He made his only field-goal attempt of 23 yards and kicked off twice with one touchback.
The Bulldogs missed two field goals, one from 40 yards and the other from 48, but made the other four. The most impressive was a 49-yarder with much room to spare. by punter Jake Camarda. Meanwhile, Camarda averaged 45.3 yards on his three punts while Bill Rubright averaged 40.5 yards on his two.
And while there were some returns, the length of any of them could be disputed because no live tackling was allowed. Kearis Jackson and James Cook handled returns and caught them well, and D’Andre Swift fielded a punt once.
Like Smart said, it was a good day just because so many people turned out during less than ideal conditions, nobody got hurt and the team managed to put on a show with a few “wow plays.” The Bulldogs deserve some credit for performing reasonably well despite the cold and wet conditions. They’ll appreciate this day much more this summer when they work out and practice with temperatures and humidity both in the 90s.
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